It feels like a recurring theme, what do you do when your team want to sign someone who is a wrong’un? Last season it was Nile Ranger, previously it was Luke McCormick and before that Adam Chapman, now it’s Ched Evans. Four players in ten years, and we still haven’t resolved the issue.
Let’s not pretend that Oxford fans are consistent and morally principled on the issue. Chapman, whose crime was dangerous driving resulting in the death of a pensioner, was supported almost without question. Reponse to McCormick’s signing – after killing two children while drunk driving – was generally hostile until he put in a series of solid performances covering for Ryan Clarke, he left at the end of the season with generally good will.
Ranger didn’t sign, of course, but given the state we were at the time there was the attitude of, well, if he can do a job…
Karl Robinson admitted this week that Ched Evans was a player that interested him. Rightly so, Evans is a decent player whose been seriously devalued due to his conviction for rape in 2012. That devaluation has brought the player into our price range when in normal circumstances we wouldn’t be able to afford him. In terms of a playing ‘asset’ Evans makes a lot of sense and Robinson is right to consider him an option.
The conviction was quashed in 2016, but the stench of the trial remains. Evans is free to work in whichever field he can find it. There’s a line of argument that says being a footballer is a privileged position and that players who do wrong shouldn’t be admitted back into the fold. That’s nonsense.
There’s also the argument that Evans is innocent (unlike the others), a victim of a malicious claim by his accuser. More than one professional footballer has openly empathised with the predatory dangers of women.
But Evans being found not guilty doesn’t prove his innocence. What his legal team achieved – with the aid of a substantial reward – was to convince a jury that the accusers previous behaviour – having sex with men while drunk – demonstrated a pattern which, while not proving Evans’ innocence, at least made the guilty verdict unsafe.
Evans’ innocence could only be proved if he could show he wasn’t there (he was), he didn’t have sex with the woman (he did, with a teammate present) or that she actively consented (difficult to prove, and not part of his defence). In essence Evans’ legal team didn’t prove his innocence, they undermined his accuser’s story.
That’s their right, it’s how the legal process works. But, most players don’t get themselves in a position where they risk being accused of rape. Plus, rape happens with frightening regularity and conviction rates are appallingly low. Rape is hard to prove, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and I’m generally of the opinion that failed cases are more likely to be the result from a lack of evidence than the maliciousness of the accuser. What is there to gain from having the intimate details of your sex life commited to public record? Unless you believe that women are genetically predisposed to this kind of thing, in which case, you are an ignoramous.
Despite the verdict, Evans’ story remains a grubby one, and one that he has been an active participant in. While he should be free to continue his career wherever he can find work, this is a story that I’d rather we weren’t a part of.